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Furniture showroom will add to boom in downtown Columbia businesses

krupon@thestate.com (803) 771-8308May 30, 2013 

Alfred Williams & Co. will open a furniture showroom in January, helping spruce up an emerging gateway corridor into Columbia’s downtown business district.

The company will make extensive renovations to a building at 1835 Gervais St., moving its offices and distribution center there to the site from its current Shop Road location.

“We’re glad to be right in the center of the community. We think that’s important,” said Don Shirley, S.C. market president for the Raleigh-based company.

The move comes at a time when Columbia’s central business district is undergoing a major overhaul.

Not only is Main Street attracting a mix of office, retail and residential projects, but the corridors leading into the area – including the Vista end of Gervais and North Main Street – are in the midst of revitalization.

“This is that entry corridor into the Gervais Street end of the business district,” said Mary Winter Teaster, senior managing director of CBRE|Columbia, which facilitated the sale of the building – at Gervais’ intersection with Barnwell Street – to Alfred Williams. “You almost look past it sometimes.”

No more.

In addition to Alfred Williams, the area is home to:

•  The historic Whaley House, being renovated by the University of South Carolina School of Law into a new home for its Children’s Law Center.

•  A new 9,000-square-foot strip center, opened last year by Cubby Culbertson that has an If It’s Paper store and a Smart-Phone Medic.

Alfred Williams will begin its renovations of the 22,579-square-foot building – formerly Commercial Office Furniture, which closed this week – this summer with a grand opening set for January. The company will take up more than half the building, with the rest available for lease. It would be ideal as an office or retail space, Teaster said.

A new façade on the building will include new windows and a new entrance, as well as a heightened roof line. A patio and fully landscaped parking area also will be included.

“This is an anchor development, for sure,” Teaster said. “They’re really going to transform this building.”

Alfred Williams – the fifth-largest Herman Miller dealer in the United States – opened in 1867 in Raleigh. It has been in Columbia since 2009, when it bought out the furniture business of longtime Columbia Herman Miller dealer R.L. Bryan.

The company, which opened a showroom in downtown Raleigh two years ago, took its time to find the right spot in Columbia for a showroom, Shirley said.

The spot the company found is highly visible, accessible and has high traffic from the Forest Acres and Two Notch area into downtown, he said.

“Our vision there … is we’re going to repurpose this building and make an investment,” he said. “It’s a neat space, and it’s really going to be cool when we get through with it.”

Alfred Williams, which has 12 employees in Columbia, sells office furniture and designs working environments to make employees more comfortable and productive.

“We hope this investment will fuel the growth for our company and the customers we’ll serve,” Shirley said. “It’s important where you go to work.”

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